Tyana (Kemerhisar)

Location: 

GPS coordinates: 37.822865, 34.571848

The sleepy town of Kemerhisar, formerly known as Tyana, is located in the southern part of famous Cappadocia. Despite its favorable location, the town is rarely visited by tourists. Therefore, not many travelers have had the opportunity to admire the beautifully preserved Roman aqueduct, learn about the Hittite past of the settlement, or take a closer look at the biography of Apollonius of Tyana. We highly encourage you to make a stop at Kemerhisar, if only for one hour, especially if you are traveling to Cappadocia from the Mediterranean coast, through the famous Cilician Gates in the Taurus Mountains.

The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)

Historical overview: 

The oldest traces of human settlement, discovered in the area, can be seen at a Neolithic mound known as Köşk Höyük, which was first inhabited eight thousand years ago. Tyana first appears on the pages of history in the second millennium BCE, in the Hittite archives. The settlement was then called Tuwanuwa, and it was one of the main centers of the south-central Anatolia. The Hittites called this region "the Lower Land." It was inhabited mainly by Luwian speakers. Tuwanuwa is mentioned in the so-called Telepinu Proclamation, which was written circa 1550 BCE.

After the collapse of the Hittite Empire, the settlement, known then as Tuwana, became the capital city of one of the several independent Neo-Hittite states that existed in this region. Perhaps it was initially dependent from the Tabal Kingdom, located to the north. However, in the 8th century BCE, it certainly was an independent kingdom, ruled by a monarch named Warpalawa. His name is listed on several rock inscriptions in the vicinity, written in Luwian hieroglyphics. The most famous of them is called İvriz rock carving. It depicts the figure of the king in the company of Teshub - the Hittite storm god. The clothes of Warpalawa testify to the close relationship between his state and the Phrygian kingdom.

An extremely advantageous location of the city contributed to its fast development. It is situated on a fertile plain, at the point that allows control of between Asia Minor and the Middle East. Nearby, there are the Cilician Gates, the narrow pass in the Taurus Mountains which is the most important corridor of communication between Cilicia, the Mediterranean coast and Anatolian Plateau.

Tyana disappeared from historical records for the next few centuries. It reappeared in the Persian sources, as part of Katpatuka Satrapy (that is Cappadocia). The city was visited by Xenophon, the Athenian writer, historian, and soldier. He joined the army of Greek mercenaries, who were sent to support the Persian satrap Cyrus in the fight against rebels in Pisidia. As a result of the turmoil on the Persian political scene, this expedition ended in total failure. Greek commanders were murdered, and the soldiers did not receive any payment. Their return to Greece in the years 401-400 BCE, known as "the March of the Ten Thousand," was described by Xenophon who participated in it. Tyana is listed under the name of Dana, as "a great and prosperous city" in his work, entitled Anabasis.

The army of Alexander the Great must have passed through the city during the march to the Cilician Gates. When the extensive, but short-lived empire of Alexander the Great broke up into smaller states, Tyana got under the rule of Antigonus the One-Eyed. Antigonus died during the great battle of Ipsus, fought in 301 BCE between the Diadochi. They were the rival generals and friends of Alexander the Great who fought for control over his empire after his death. After the battle of Ipsus, the lands previously controlled by Antigonus were distributed among the victors, and Tyana came under the control of the Seleucid Empire.

In the Hellenistic period, the city got another name - Thoana - in honor of its mythical founder, the Thracian king Thoas. With the passage of time, the name was distorted into Tyana. For some period, the settlement had yet another name - Eusebeia at the Taurus - because of the King of Cappadocia, Ariarates IV Eusebes who ruled between 220 - 163 BCE. At that time, Eusebeia was time the second most important city in Cappadocia, after its capital - Mazaka, now known as Kayseri. However, this name was not adopted permanently, and soon the city was called Tyana again.

Tyana was also the second largest city of the Roman province of Cappadocia, with the capital in Mazaka, renamed to Caesarea. In the first century AD, the most famous son of Tyana was born - the neo-Pythagorean philosopher and orator, Apollonius. His activities earned him a reputation as a miracle-worker, who healed the sick. He claimed to be the Son of God, and his biography was often likened to the life of Jesus Christ.

The divine reputation of Apollonius persisted long after his death. In 271 AD, the army of Septymia Zenobia, the Queen of Palmyra, invaded Asia Minor, reaching almost to Ancyra (now Ankara). The Roman army under the command of Emperor Aurelian conducted a successful counteroffensive. In this conflict, Tyana stood on the side of Queen Zenobia, but escaped the destruction by Roman troops, apparently because of a miraculous event. Apollonius of Tyana was to appear to the Emperor successfully persuaded him to spare the city. A more credible version of events claims that the Emperor took pity on Tyana because of ​​the sanctuary Apollonius located nearby.

During the reign of the emperors Trajan and Hadrian, an aqueduct was erected in Tyana. Its long fragments can be seen even today. During the reign of Emperor Caracalla, the city gained the status of a colony as Antoniana Colonia Tyana, and from 372, it was the capital of a separate province, known as Cappadocia Secunda. In the final period of the antiquity, the city once again changed its name and was known as Christoupolis - the City of Christ.

In Byzantine times, Tyana became a critical strategic point of defense against Arab raids. It was located on the border of the Umayyad Caliphate, and therefore it was often invaded. For the first time, the Arabs plundered the city in 709, after a two-year siege. Tyana was ravaged and depopulated, but with time it was partially rebuilt. Another Arab invasion, led by the Caliph Harun al-Rashid of the Abbasid dynasty, happened in 806. The armies of the caliph succeeded in conquering the city where they started its reconstruction as a military base and erected a mosque. However, the Arabs withdrew from Tyana the peace treaty was concluded with the Byzantine emperor Nicephorus I.

The respite for the city was short-lived, as it was plundered by the army of the Abbasid Caliphate in 831, and then abandoned by the retreating army. In the 10th century, Tyana was in decline, and in the 11 century, it was conquered by the Seljuks. It received the Turkish name of Kilisehisar (the Church Fortress), which was eventually changed to Kemerhisar. The Turkish word kemer means a belt, but is also used to describe an aqueduct. In the case of Tyana, its modern name - Kemerhisar - refers to the impressive remains of a Roman aqueduct on its territory.

Sightseeing: 

The Roman aqueduct, already mentioned above, is the most important historical tourist attraction in Kemerhsar. It stretches along Tyana Caddesi (Tyana Street) for nearly 1.5 km, from the town center to the east. In the center, the aqueduct is the highest. As we walk further to the east, towards the fields surrounding Kemerhisar, the monument gets lower and lower, to finally disappear into the ground. The aqueduct brought drinking water to ancient Tyana from a spring, now known as Köşk Pınar, located in Bahçeli, 4 km to the east from Kemerhisar. In Roman times, the spring was enclosed with a rectangular pool, which has now been restored (37.8475, 34.612222).

Near the beginning of the aqueduct, in the center of the town, there is the archaeological site of Tyana. The researchers have discovered, among others, a monumental fountain (a nymphaeum), and a church on the plan of a basilica. You can walk along the aqueduct at will, but the access to the excavation site is not allowed. The remains of the Roman baths, located in the vicinity of the local primary school, are also inaccessible to visitors. Other Roman baths can also be found in Bahçeli. Moreover, in Bahçeli, near the Roman pool, there is the site of Neolithic Köşk Höyük (37.847500, 34.612222).

Hacı İsmail Efendi Mosque stands on the north-eastern side of the town (37.825365, 34.574669). It was built quite recently, in 1971, but shockingly the fragments of ancient buildings were used to decorate the front door jamb.

Bibliography

Source texts:

  • Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae
  • Aurelius Victor, De Caesaribus
  • Cassius Dio, Roman History
  • Xenophon, Anabasis

Reference books:

  • Bryce, Trevor, in: The Luvians, C. Melchert (editor)
  • Hamilton, William J., Researches in Asia Minor, Pontus and Armenia
  • Reale, Giovanni, A history of ancient philosophy
  • Singer, Itamar, Hittites and Hattians in Anatolia at the Beginning of the Second Millennium B.C., in: Journal of Near Eastern Studies 9

Visitor tips: 

The parts of ancient Tyana, available for visitors, are free of charge.

Getting there: 

By car: Kemerhisar is situated very close to the route connecting the eastern Mediterranean coast (Adana and Mersin) with Central Anatolia and Cappadocia. This road is known as Tarsus-Ankara Otoyolu/O-21. The distance from Adana is 160 km, and from Göreme in central Cappadocia - 106 km.

By public transport: there are half-hourly buses from Niğde to Kemerhisar through Bor. Before starting the trip, make sure you know when the last bus of the day leaves as there are no hotels in Kemerhisar.

Accommodation: 

There are no accommodation options available in Kemerhisar. The nearest hotel - Hotel Tyana - is in Bor (10 km to the north). To find a wider choice of hotels it is necessary to stay in Niğde, 25 km away.

Image gallery: 

The ruins of Tyana
The ruins of Tyana
The ruins of Tyana
The ruins of Tyana
The ruins of Tyana
The ruins of Tyana
The ruins of Tyana
The ruins of Tyana
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)
The Roman aqueduct in Tyana (Kemerhisar)